Category Archives: Personal Injuries

Health and Fire Services Issue Warning to Farmers on the Dangers of Slurry Pits

The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) and the Fire Service have issued a fresh warning to farmers in the area about the dangers of slurry pits on their property, and the risk that they pose to themselves, their workers and their livestock.

The warning comes as a result of the HSENI and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) having been classed to rescue four animals that had fallen into uncovered slurry pits so far this year. This loss of livestock may be financially damaging to farmers, but these cases pose as an example of the danger of death present for the farmers themselves, their families and farm employees.

Slurry pit related accidents is one of the four top causes of death and injury in Northern Irish farms. Farmers and farm employees are at risk of being overcome by the toxic gas released from the slurry during mixing, and falling into the pit or openings in the tanks.

NIFRS’ Group Commander-Fergal Leonard-issued this statement on the dangers of slurry pits:

“For Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, public safety is our priority and the best course of action is through prevention. At this time of year, slurry is being removed from the pits and used as fertiliser on the fields. This can be hazardous if the slurry pit is not properly ventilated during mixing operations and storage lids are not replaced immediately after filling a tanker. We would appeal for farmers to be vigilant in ensuring the access hatches into slurry pits are secure and well maintained”.

The leader of the Farm Safety Team at the HSENI-Malcom Downey-echoed his sentiments: “Before mixing slurry, always stop and think about the job ahead and make preparations to complete the entire task safely. You must cover all the openings and keep children and animals well away during the mixing process.”

He further stated: “Stay out for 30 minutes after starting mixing or after moving or re-directing the pump and try to mix on a windy day. Do not take any chances when mixing slurry, you are risking your own life and the lives of others as well as putting your livestock in danger.”

Compensation Claim Reduced in Milk Tanker Accident as Motorcyclist Found Partly Liable

The settlement to be awarded to a young motorcyclist as the result of an accident with a milk tanker has been reduced as the he was ruled partly liable for the injury.

Adam Wagner (23) was riding his motorcycle along the B7076 Gretna to Johnstonebridge Road at night in August 2009. On his journey, he noticed lights of a vehicle that he presumed was approaching him on the road. Adam dipped his headlights as a result, and continued driving at a speed of around 50 miles per hour.

However, as Adam approached the lights, he realised that they were not coming from an approaching vehicle at all. The source was an articulated milk tanker that was reversing into a nearby farm, and blocking both carriageways of the road in the process. Adam attempted to avoid the vehicle, but while swerving, hit the offside wheel of the tanker’s trailer. Adam was brought to hospital, where he remained unconscious for two days. When he awoke, he found that his left leg had been amputated below the knee.

After seeking legal advice, Adam made a compensation claim for the injury caused by the milk tanker accident against the driver of the tanker-Thomas Grant-and the company who owned the truck, Arla Foods UK PLC. Adam alleged that there was a lack of lighting on the side of the trailer, and this it was difficult to see that it was blocking the carriageway. Alastair Pasco, Adam’s uncle, supported such a claim, as he had been following Adam home on the night of the accident.

The defendants denied liability for Adam’s accident, claiming that the tanker was indeed adequately lit, and warning hazard lights were clearly displayed to other road users. They further stated that the reversing milk tanker would have been clearly visible to anyone who was paying attention while driving.

Liability for the injuries was initially denied, and after three years of long negotiations, Thomas Grant’s insurers offered £9,000 to Adam so that he could make appropriate renovations to his house in light of his injury. Despite receiving recommendations from his solicitors to accept the claim, Adam rejected it, stating that he wanted a full settlement. As a result, his solicitors refused to represent him further with the case.

After finding new legal representatives, Adam and his solicitor took the milk tanker accident to the Court of Session. Lord Uist heard their claim that Thomas Grant should not have performed the reversing manoeuvre without appropriate lighting on the vehicle, and that Arla Foods should have carried out risk assessment procedures before collecting milk from the farm at night.

When the hearing ended, Lord Uist agreed that the reversing manoeuvre was “inherently dangerous”, but he did believe that the vehicle had been adequately lit. He further stated that it was significant that neither Adam nor his uncle-who was an experienced motorcyclist of over 20 years-failed to see the tanker blocking the westbound carriageway.

60% of the liability was attributed to Arla Foods and Thomas Grant, and the remaining was to Adam. The compensation claim was reduced from £568,926 to £341,356 accordingly.

Fatal Fall at Farm Depot Case Resolved

The fines and sentences have been announced regarding the corporate manslaughter of an employee who died after falling through the roof of a building at a Farm Depot.

In October 2011, Jason Pennington (42), an employee at the building company Peter Mawson Ltd, was working to fix a leaky roof at the West Cumberland Farmers Depot in Cumbria. As Jason traversed the roof, he stepped onto a skylight. The glass broke, causing Jason to fall seven metres onto the concrete floor below him. The emergency services were notified, and Jason was immediately transported to the nearby Furness General Hospital. Unfortunately, he died a short time later due to his injuries.

An investigation into the fall was launched by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). It was found that no precautions were taken to ensure that the roof was safe to work on, or to prevent the fatal fall should the roof give way. As a result, the building company and its owner-Peter Mawson-were prosecuted for failing to ensure the safety of employees contrary to the Health and Safety at Work Act, and for corporate manslaughter.

At the Preston Crown Court in December of that year, the defendants pled guilty to the allegations against them. In earlier this month, an announcement was made regarding the fines and sentences for the fatal fall from height accident. The building company was fined £200,000 for the corporate manslaughter offence, and a further £20,0000 for the breach of Health and Safety regulations.

Peter Mawson was sentenced to eight months in prison (suspended for two years), 200 hours unpaid work, and also told to pay costs of £31,504. He was further ordered to advertise what happened in the local newspaper, and on the company’s website.

The investigating inspector for the HSE, Chris Hatton, said:“Jason tragically lost his life because the company that employed him did nothing to make sure he was safe while he worked on a fragile roof”.

“Peter Mawson knew the clear panels on the roof weren’t safe to walk on but neither he nor his company provided any equipment to prevent workers falling to their death. If scaffolding or netting had been fitted under the fragile panels, or covers had been fitted over them, then Jason would still be here today.”

Company Found Guilty for Crane Accident Death

A manufacturing company has been found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, causing the death of one of its employees in a crane accident.

In July 2011, Michael Wickstead (63) of Greater Manchester was employed for Refinery Supplies Ltd. At the time of the accident, Michael had been working on manufacturing a three-tonne steel container, which was resting on a stand that was secured in place by chains hanging from an overhead crane. One of his colleagues was moving another container with an overhead crane when the two cranes collided in the air. The collision caused the container on which Michael was working to fall, crushing him underneath it.

Michael’s injuries proved fatal. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into his death, and the work environment and circumstances surrounding it. When the investigation was complete, it was revealed that there was no clear working system implemented to ensure that the employees were not at risk of being involved in crane accidents, and there was no safety mechanism implemented-such as anti-collision devices-to prevent the two cranes from crashing into each other.

Refinery Supplies Ltd-who specialise in manufacturing equipment for the lead and zinc refining industry-were prosecuted with a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by the HSE. At the Manchester Crown Court, representatives from the company pleaded guilty to the charges and for failing to ensure that the necessary precautions were implemented to prevent such deaths. The company was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 in costs.

The HSE Inspector involved with the case-Helen Jones-said:

“Michael sadly lost his life because the safety standards of his employer fell well below the minimum legal standards. “Refinery Supplies knew there was a risk of cranes colliding at the factory and, in fact, this had happened on several previous occasions without the same catastrophic result. However, the firm failed to take any action to make sure workers weren’t put at risk of being injured”.

“It’s vital that manufacturers carefully consider the dangers facing their employees and then implement safety improvements. If Refinery Supplies had done this then Michael’s tragic death could have been avoided.”

FSAI Re-Issues Frozen Berry Hepatitis A Warning

The Food Safety Authority has re-issued advice to boil frozen berries due to a hepatitis A threat that has been identified in the foods. A similar alert was issued last year, after there was an outbreak of the disease across Europe. Despite investigations, no single point of origin of the contamination was found.

The FSAI stated that it initially grew concerned that several cases of Hepatitis A had been reported over the summer which they could not attribute to overseas travel. Around 1,440 cases of inexplicable Hepatitis A have been reported in twelve different European countries since the original warning last year. 331 cases had been confirmed by genotyping techniques, and 21 of those occurred in Ireland.

The chief executive of the FSAI-Professor Alan Reilly-ensured to comment that the cases of Hepatitis A was due to berries imported into the country, and not berries grown here. He did urge people to remember that although fresh berries were not a Hepatitis A threat, they should still be washed thoroughly before consumption.

Professor Reilly also encouraged those working in the catering industry to check the source of their berries, ensuring that they are reputable suppliers with comprehensive food safety management systems in place.

The National Virus Reference Laboratory, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre and the Health Service Executive are all collaborating with the FSAI to track the source of the infected frozen berries, and cross-reference their findings with a similar investigation in Italy.

Due to the incubation period of fifteen to fifty days, victims of the disease may have eaten contaminated berries prior to the FSAI’s warning, and before affected retailers and the opportunity to remove the products from their shelves. In spite of this, the retailers and manufacturers all have a duty of care to supply goods which do not pose a threat to the health of those who consume them. If you-or anyone you know-have suffered from Hepatitis A due to eating the contaminated fruit, you should seek legal counsel regarding a compensation claim.

HSE Prosecutes Farm For Safety Failings

A dairy farm in Durham have been fined by the Magistrate’s Court after being prosecuted by the HSE for safety failings which resulted in an employee sustaining injuries after falling from a height.

In September 2013, Simon Atkinson (41) of Dipton, County Durham, was unloading empty milk bottles from a lorry and placing them into a storage area 1.6 metres below ground level at his local Lanchester Dairies site. Simon was working alone at the time of the incident.

While working, Simon slipped and fell through the opening of the storage area-landing on the concrete surface below him. Due to the force of the impact, Simon fractured his eye socket, and sustained several fractures to his collar bone. He also broke one of his ribs.

When he was transported to hospital, it was revealed that Simon was bleeding in his skull. He had to be put into an induced coma to remove a blood clot that had formed at the side of his brain, and he was unable to return to work while waiting for further surgery to repair damage to his spine.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident. They found that no safety measures had been taken to prevent a fall from height accident on the dairy farm, despite a risk assessment having been conducted which had notified the owners of the farm there a risk of a fall existed.

The HSE proceeded to prosecute Lanchester Dairies Ltd under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and, at Peterlee Magistrates Court, the company pleaded guilty. They admitted that they failed to implement a safe system of work and training for the unloading task.

It was revealed that there had been a fixed barrier across the doorway to the storage area two years prior to the incident, but it had been removed and never replaced. Had such a device been in place at the time of the accident, it is likely that Simon would not have sustained the injuries that he did.

Lanchester Dairies Ltd were fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,690 in legal costs by the Magistrates. The HSE inspector involved in the case-Michael Kingston-commented that the company had been aware of the risks associated with the unloading operation, and had neglected to implement the simple and inexpensive measure to prevent a fall from height accident on their farm, resulting in Simon’s injury.

Young Boy Killed by Slurry Pit Fumes

A young boy has been killed by exposure to fumes and his father left in a critical condition after a slurry put accident in County Antrim.

Robert Christie (8) was mixing slurry with his father on a farm belonging to a family friend near Donloy, County Antrim, when the pair were overcome by fumes from the pit. The father and son both collapsed, and the alarm was raised by a postman who was visiting the farm.

The emergency services were immediately notified, and Robert was airlifted to Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital. Despite strenuous efforts, the medical staff present were unable to save the young boy’s life. His father-Bertie (52)-was taken to Causeway Hospital where he remains in critical condition.

The family has requested that no further details have been released about how the young boy was killed in the slurry pit accident. Barclay Bell-the deputy President of the Ulster Farmers Union-explained in a statement how such fatal accidents with slurry pits occur.

Mr Bell informed the press that slurry pits are pits that contain waste products produced by farm animals over the winter months. The waste stays in such pits over a period of several months, during which time a fatal combination of gases are created and released. The most dangerous of these gases is hydrogen sulphide.

The slurry pit’s contents are used to fertilise farmlands, but before it can be spread across the land, it needs to be mixed and agitated. This process releases the lethal fumes into the surrounding atmosphere, and it is difficult to know when they have diffused away as they are scentless gases.

The gases are denser than air, so they stay closer to the ground. This could explain how young Robert was killed in the slurry pit accident while his father only suffered an injury due to being less exposed, as he was higher up from the ground.

Keith Morrison – Chief Executive of Northern Ireland´s Health and Safety Executive said: “Incidents like this show starkly the dangers which our farming communities face and my heart goes out to those affected by this tragic accident”.

Heinz Fined £50,000 Following Manufacturing Plant Accident

Heinz has been fined £50,000 for health and safety violations following an accident at a manufacturing plant during which one of its workers lost their hand.

In June 2013, Alec Brackenbury (49) of Bacton, Norfolk was working in a manufacturing plant owned by Heinz in Worstead, Norfolk. He was manning a potato peeling machine when he tried to retrieve a bolt that had fallen into a slurry pump. Alec believed that the electrical supply to the slurry pump was connected to the potato peeling machine and had been isolated. Therefore, he put his right hand into the unguarded machine. The machine suddenly started to operate, severing Alec’s hand at the wrist.

Alec was immediately transported to the local Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, where he received medical attention. Despite their efforts, the medical staff at the hospital were unable to save his hand. Alec had to undergo eight different operations on the stump of his hand over the two-week period following the accident. As a result of losing his hand, Alec is unable to work, drive or perform many daily tasks.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into Alec’s accident. Inspectors discovered that a protective gate which should have been bolted to the top of the slurry pump was absent at the time of the accident. Had such a gate been in place, the accident would have been prevented and Alec would not have lost his hand.

The HSE inspectors prosecuted Heinz for their negligence and, at the Norwich Magistrates’ Court, the company was fined £50,000 for being guilty of breaching Regulation 11(1) o the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The company was also ordered to pay £9,661 in costs.

The HSE Inspector involved with the case-Tony Brooks-stated: “Heinz failed to protect Mr Brackenbury while he was contracted to carry out maintenance work at their Westwick plant and, as a result, he has suffered a life-changing injury. Heinz failed to protect Mr Brackenbury while he was contracted to carry out maintenance work at their Westwick plant and, as a result, he has suffered a life-changing injury.”

Electrical Contractor Fined for Fall on a Farm Accident

Gregg Electrical has been fined £2,000 for breaching health and safety legislation that resulted in one of his apprentices falling from the roof of a barn.

In June 2013, an unnamed teenager (sixteen years old at the time of the incident) was working as an apprentice for Austin Gregg (trading as Gregg Electrical). He was working with another apprentice and Gregg himself when they were employed to install solar panels on the roof of a bran located at Leyburn Farm, North Yorkshire.

The teenager was asked to retrieve a tool from the roof of the barn on which the solar panels were installed. The teenager neglected to put a harness on to perform the supposedly simple task. While he was on the roof, the teenager stumble and fell through a partially covered roof light onto the concrete floor metres below.

The apprentice only suffered from severe bruising from his fall, despite the height from which he fell. A HSE investigation was launched into the incident, and it was discovered that Gregg had taken inadequate precautions in ensuring that an accident of this nature would not occur. Inspectors from the HSE determined that, even if the apprentice had used a safety harness, the fixing points for it were inadequate and had not been properly tested.

The Northallerton Magristrate’s Court fined the electrical contracted £2,000 with £505 in costs for a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. As of yet, no injury claim for compensation for the fall form height accident on the farm has been filed by the apprentice. Since the teenager was sixteen years of age at the time of the incident, he has three years from his eighteenth birthday during which he could claim compensation for his injuries according to the Statute of Limitations for accidents such as this.

Car Accident Victim Receives Compensation for Injury

A rescue and recovery driver who broke his wrist after being hit by a car at a junction has received an undisclosed sum as compensation for his injury.

In November 2010, John Agius (62) was cycling along the High Street in Benfleet, Essex, when a car struck him down while emerging from a road junction. John was thrown onto the car’s bonnet, and broke his wrist due to the force of the impact.

John was immediately transported to hospital where emergency surgery was performed on his wrist. Several months after the accident occurred, John was informed by medical professionals that the bones in his wrist were not fusing as they should and that he would need to undergo a second operation to correct this.

In an attempt to encourage the bones in John’s wrist to fuse together, doctors inserted a bone graft from John’s hip into his wrist during the second surgery. This measure was not entirely successful and half a year after the accident occurred, John underwent a third surgery to attend to the numbness that he had started to notice in his hand.

Despite the three operations, John is still unable to lift heavy weights with his left hand and often requires assistance for basic tasks both at work and at home. John had to take six months off his job as a rescue and recovery driver due to his injury. John admits that he is now wary of riding his bicycle again and conscious that he will never fully regain the strength in his left hand.

John sought legal counsel, and made a claim for compensation for being hit by a car at a junction. The driver of the car denied liability for John’s accident, stating that John had been negligent himself and partially responsible for his injuries.

After some time negotiating between the two parties, an undisclosed settlement of compensation for being hit by a car at a junction was negotiated. It is believed that this settlement is the full amount initially claimed by John.

HSE Prosecutes City Council for Tractor Accident

The HSE has prosecuted Bristol City Council for health and safety violations that led to an accident in which a park employee broke her hip and sustained damage to her Achilles tendon when a tractor overturned.

In May 2012, an unnamed woman was employed as a park keeper in the Netham Park in Bristol when she was carrying out maintenance work. She was working on a tractor with a trailer attached, and applied the brake as the tractor started to descend a slope. As she braked, the tractor skidded and the park keeper swerved to avoid hitting a fence. As she did so, the tractor flipped over-throwing her from her seat.

The employee was transported to hospital to receive medical attention. It was revealed that as a result of the fall, the woman broke her pelvis and sustained a serious injury to her Achilles tendon. Due to the extent of her injuries, she was unable to return from work for a year, and was forced to take an office job on her return to work. Further surgery is required to repair the damage done to her Achilles tendon.

The HSE launched an investigation into the accident, and it was revealed that the tractor had been acquired just prior to the accident and had not yet been fitted with a seat belt. The Bristol City Council had failed to provide adequate instruction to the park keeper on how to use the machinery in a safe manner.

The HSE prosecuted the council with two beaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. The defendants admitted guilt, and accepted the fine of £20,000 and costs of £4,700.

The HSE inspector involved with the case-Kate Leftly-stated that the distress and pain that the employee had endured as a result of the overturning tractor accident had been preventable. She added that the employee had trained for three years to become a park keeper, but had to give up that job in spite of her training due to the injuries that she received.

The inspector also stated that the Bristol City Council’s systems for ensuring employee safety were inadequate, and that they should have ensured that the employee was properly trained to drive the tractor and they failed to identify the need for a suitable restraint.